Trapezius muscles are a pair of flat triangular shaped muscles, which are attached to the base of the skull and are extended to the neck, shoulder blade and middle back region. These broad muscles are involved with various movements of the shoulder blades, neck, head and arms. Moving the shoulder blade for lifting the arms or for shrugging, bending the neck on either side and backward movements of the head and neck are impossible without the support from trapezius muscles.
It performs other functions like supporting the weight of the arms and also assists in breathing. Trapezius muscle pain gives you a deep pulsating feeling in the neck and in between the shoulder blades. The muscle often stiffens up because of the pain and is tender to touch. It may also lead to headache and the pain is felt at the base of the skull, at the temples or behind the eyes.
Pain in the trapezius muscle is an indication that it has been subjected to excessive stress. A number of factors can give rise to this condition. They are as follows:
- Poor posture due to bending forward while sitting or standing or driving for long hours causes trapezius muscle strain and prevents the muscle from functioning properly.
- Sleeping in the wrong position by lying on the back or stomach while the head is held on one side throughout the night can lead to pain in this muscle in the morning.
- Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on the shoulders can lead to muscle pain.
- Repetitive use of the muscles for holding the phone in between the head and ear or playing instruments like violin or piano causes injury to the muscles and triggers these painful symptoms.
- Women tend to suffer from trapezius muscle pain due to tightly fitted bra straps. Breastfeeding mothers get this problem if they feed their baby by holding the baby in the arms.
Trapezius muscle pain is bothersome because it is not a localized pain but often gets extended to other parts of the body. Firstly, you must take some rest so that the muscles do not have to bear the weight of the arms to carry out head and neck movement in various directions. For faster recovery, a few other steps are also to be taken. They are discussed here:
Lie down on the stomach and place an ice pack on the painful area of the back for 10-15 minutes. This will reduce the pain temporarily. You can repeat it several times throughout the day but the duration of each ice application should not be more than 15 minutes.
When the muscle pain is unbearable, then anti-inflammatory medicines can be taken to control it. There are over the counter medicines available for this purpose. However, before taking any such medicine, it is advisable to contact your doctor first who will suggest you the right medicines and the suitable dosage for you.
There are almost 10 trigger points that lie in the upper back region, which when massaged can ease off pain. Therefore, the massage should be done by an experienced massage therapist who is aware of all these trigger points.
If the pain is not that severe, then you may not want to visit a massage therapist. In that case, you can apply some pressure on the trapezius muscle with your hands to release the tension from it. As you touch the painful part of the back with your hand, you can feel some tender spots. Press each of these spots and hold the pressure on it for 10 seconds.
You can use a tennis ball to exert pressure on these tender points. Keep a tennis ball on a flat surface and lie down on it in such a way that the painful part of the trapezius muscle is placed on the ball. You can change the position of the ball as per your requirement.
Some simple stretching exercises involving the neck and shoulders can relax the taut trapezius muscles really well. Stand straight, slightly lift the shoulder and rotate it in clockwise direction 2-3 times. Similarly, roll it in anticlockwise direction. After that, bend the neck on one side as if to touch the ear to the shoulder and hold the position for 30 seconds. Then bring back the head in upright position and bend it to the other side.
Trapezius muscle pain can be prevented in future if you bring about improvement in your body posture. Always sit or stand in an upright position with the head held back. While sitting or standing, you must support your arms properly to reduce excess strain on trapezius muscles. Repetitive stress injury to these muscles can be prevented by taking frequent breaks in between activities that strain these muscles. Most importantly, continue with the stretching exercises to keep these muscles strong and flexible.